Friday, March 21, 2008

The Twelve Little Cakes

Recommendation: Yes, I would recommend this book. I think the stories are lovely and I like the way the author writes. I enjoyed reading them all, and I think you will too!

Overview: Dominika Dery is my age (according to the story, she was born 10 days after me), and was born in Prague, Czechoslovakia when it was under control of the Soviet Union. She lived with her parents and older sister in the township of Cernosice. This is a memoir written in 12 chapters, stories really.

Know that this doesn't cover her entire life, just the first few years. BUT, I read that she is working on 12 more stories that will cover a few more years of her life.

What I liked: First off, Dominika Dery has a positive outlook on her life as a child. Similiar to The Glass Castle, she is growing up in difficult circumstances, but she is happy. Her stories have sadness in them, but they aren't miserable. She writes these from her perspective as a small child, with all the wonder and optimism she had then.

I like the way she focuses on a few specific incidents, but expands them enough to give us a clear picture of what was going on. Also they segue well together, so it doesn't feel choppy. I like the way she refers back to things. For example, she explains about the little shops selling sausages and little cakes, then refers back to that a couple of times later.
I love the cute little cakes with meaningful titles for each chapter.

I always love a story with magic or religion or spirituality especially when it is natural and not over dramatic. So I loved her reference to her "little god." I loved that her mom dreamed of her before she was born.

Also what sets this apart from The Glass Castle is that Dominika has great parents! Her parents are described and developed well. And they are good moral people. I do think she becomes a little disenchanted with her father as she gets older. (I'm thinking like when he built the laboratory in their garage.) It will be interesting to see in her next collection if her opinion changes.

Communism as it was in Czechoslavakia in the 70's and 80's is talked about a lot in this book. It helps you get a feel for how her life was affected by it, but doesn't overwhelm you with a history lesson. Dery provides information in a way that is not overwhelming. It was interesting and sad to see the effects of a Communist elite, black listing and failed revolutions. I don't think I could pass any test on communism, but I do understand it a little bit better.

There were so many moments in this story when I thought thing were going to turn horrible, but they didn't. Which isn't to say her life was always happy, but I think Dominika chose to focus on happy and meaningful moment for her story.

I LOVED the little old ladies that were her friends. I loved the ballet dancer's response to her, and the way the other teachers were charmed by her. I loved that the priest was so nice to her.

What I didn't Like: Well, I don't have much. I will say that the story where she is in an isolation ward of a hospital was a very sad. I admit I had to kind of skim it because it was so sad. But that's just because I don't like sad stories, it was written well, and probably left out the worst parts!

Cool Quotes:
"By the mid-eighties, communism was like an old dragon that would occasionally crawl out from its cave and eat someone for dinner. As long as it wasn't you the dragon was eating, you could live with the sound of screams in the distance."
"This power was like fire. It was a good servant but a bad master."

Saturday, March 8, 2008

The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion

Overview: Joan Didion is an accomplished writer, her talent for writing is obvious and makes this account very readable. This is a memoir of the year after her husband died.

What I loved: I took lots of notes while reading this book. I think Joan gets it right. She is not writing a self-help book, she does not attempt to make a big statement. She simply writes how it was and what she felt, and how she lived. I think it is realistic, and sadly I can relate to much of what she wrote. I kept thinking, "YES! That's exactly how it is." Because she is a writer, there are all kinds of great literary references. She copes with obstacles in her life by reading all she can about them. She researches and looks for answers, I love that. She has included just the right amount of quotes and information that you get a feel for what she is reading, without it distracting from her actual story. This book is sad, and honest, but she doesn't feel sorry for herself.

If I had read this two years ago, I think my response would be different, but I liked it so much I'm sure I would still have enjoyed it and recommended it.
Like I said, I took a lot of notes, but I'm not sure how to put them on. I think I'll have to update this later after I know what I think is good to share.

These is My Words by Nancy Turner

Recommendation: I do recommend this book. It is long, and it took me a few chapters to really get in to the story, but after awhile I couldn't put it down. It didn't get boring at any point. I really enjoyed reading it.

Overview: I don't read many pioneer/homesteading kind of books. This isn't my usual genre. It is not about LDS settlers. It is a fictional diary.

It is sad, lots of bad things happen. But it is not a boo hoo story.

What I liked: This is definetly a hard luck story. I guess all pioneer books are. I liked the main character, Sarah. (Colby might be irritated that she is good at everything and doesn't know why a man would love her.) The author does a great job using the diary format. I like that although horrible things happen, its not written overly sentimental. The lapse in dates and entries help you get a feel for her life. The entries are written, I think, realistically....of course no one really writes that much in their diary. I think you can really see Sarah's growth.

I loved the focus on reading and education. I loved the way children are valued in this story. The excitment each feels when they learn they are expecting. There were so many tender entries about Sarah's children and her love for them. I loved that for the most part the men are good. The main characters are moral and upright.

The romance is the best part. I liked Captain Elliot. I think it was cool how the author let his history unfold slowly. I loved when Sarah found the books and how they changed her life.

What I didn't like: I think some parts are just hard to believe. Maybe its because this was set over 200 years ago. But really, if your sister's husband is a creep you wouldn't tell her?

I just have such a hard time with the way things aren't talked about. Why didn't anyone express to her that they held Captain Elliot in high esteem when she was worried about him being a soldier and not proper? Also, I know Sarah is young and not schooled in the ways of romance, but I think she wouldn't be as clueless about peoples feelings and intentions if she was a real person. The way she interacted with the "old biddies" on the train was much more realistic.

I think the book is fairly predictable, you can figure out what is going to happen. BUT the way things happen and when they happen is more of a surprise. So it didn't really bother me.

I believe that the author did her reasearch, and I don't know much about the "territories" during this time, so I don't have historical issues. I just sometimes wonder if things really were that different.

Final Note: I don't know why I read this when Graham was out of town. As if I don't already have a hard time sleeping when I'm alone. I started getting the feeling that people would know I was alone and I had no way to protect myself and my kids from banditos. Really.

Saturday, March 1, 2008


Take me back...apo-o-logy. I know, more self-indulgent lyrics....

I went to the libray today and picked up 5 juicy volumes. They actually had a marker on the hold shelf that said, "your books are on the bottom shelf." Fancy. I've been waiting, and enjoying the sunshine. Don't give up on me and check back soon, I'll be reading!